Baking great bread requires perfection, and perfectionism is baked into Hi-Rise Bread Company’s DNA: the bakery-cafe in Cambridge was opened in 1996 by a former food critic. Owner René Becker once wrote the dining column in Boston magazine. Today, Hi-Rise crafts more than a dozen varieties of bread every day, from baguettes to loaves of Nordic Rye. Each is good enough to be savored solo, but an extensive sandwich menu makes good use of the bakes in whimsically titled creations like Cash for your Hargo, a ciabatta roll stuffed with melt-in-your-mouth short rib and pickled onions.
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It’s fitting that a city with a world-famous marathon would have world-class bakeries; carbo-loading is a way of life in Boston, and we take bread seriously. That’s why we leave the art and science of sourdough to the pros: There are destination bakeshops from Arlington to Milton for crusty boules, soft rolls, crisp baguettes, and more classic breads. Whether you’re after the perfect sandwich or simply seeking a companion for your jam, these Boston breadmakers slice it right.
Brookline institution Clear Flour Bread relies on traditional French, Italian, and German baking techniques to create fresh baked goods absolutely worth waiting in line for. (And there are usually only lines on the weekends.) Breads are not limited to common European styles like pain de mie, batards, ciabatta, and rye, though those breads and more are all available daily. We love the crunchy, salty, and slightly spicy Rustic Olive Rolls; and Seeded 7 Grain, a sourdough bread made with a blend of cracked wheat, rye, corn, barley, flax seeds, oats, and millet. Those with a soft spot for soft pretzels should make time for a weekend visit: Chewy, malty German Soft Pretzels are available Saturday and Sunday.
Mamadou’s Artisan Bakery
Mamadou’s Artisan Bakery is a true local gem. Since 2008, the Winchester-based bakery delights suburbanites and those in-the-know with an array of fresh bread, including sourdough, brioche, and a signature Cranberry Pecan loaf—not to mention, crispy croissants. Mamadou Mbaye, who co-owns the spot with his wife, Mame, learned traditional French bread-baking while growing up in Senegal. A decade after emigrating to the U.S., he opened the Winchester bakery, with a second location in Arlington arriving in 2017. (Mamadou’s became more familiar to city dwellers thanks to a short-lived stall at the Boston Public Market). On weekends arrive early to these no-frills suburban spots, where the best stuff sells out quickly.
Originally opened in Tehran in 2007, La Saison Bakery was reborn in Cambridge after owner Soheil Fathi immigrated to the area and spent two years working as a pastry chef at Flour Bakery + Cafe. In addition to croissants, chocolates, cookies, scones, pizza, and sourdough crackers, La Saison bakes classic breads like baguettes and a crispy, Persian-style flatbread flecked with sesame and black caraway seeds called Barbari Bread (available on Thursdays only). The stars of the show are the sourdough breads, which range from a two-pound loaf of Yogurt Sourdough to Cranberry-Pecan Sourdough, aka Baba-G. Shortly after opening to much acclaim in Cambridge, La Saison expanded with a stall at Fenway’s Time Out Market.
Down a quiet, narrow alley, tucked away from bustling Hanover Street, follow the scent of freshly baked bread and the gentle cloud of flour into Bricco Panetteria. This elusive spot is often shared by word of mouth by people who appreciate bread baked fresh daily (as well as what goes on it). Bricco is the flagship of North End restaurant magnate Frank DePasquale, who takes bread seriously. Visiting the Panetteria is like getting a peek into his secret stash: Those who find the hidden-away bakery will be rewarded with hefty baguettes, spongy focaccia, and prosciutto-and-parmesan studded ciabatta.
The married couple behind Iggy’s Bread of the World elected to do things the Old World way: Making bread is a two-day ritual from start to finish. Yet the Cambridge company has still managed to meet demand so big restaurants across Boston carry their breads (not to mention, Whole Foods.) Iggy’s many varieties read like a greatest-hits list of styles of bread. Options include loaves and rolls of airy Country Bread, Black Pepper Brioche, and sweets like Cranberry and weekend-only Raisin. Iggy’s is easy to find in grocery stores, but true devotees can visit the North Cambridge headquarters for sandwiches, charcuterie, and freshly baked delights. We’re also keeping an eye on Iggy’s plans for a coffee-and-croissants café in Cambridge, in the works to open in early spring 2023.
Newton newcomer SALT Patisserie has made quite a splash since opening earlier this year. Founder and chef Thiago Silva’s incredible cakes and chocolate bonbons have impressed celebrities and viewers of food TV, but locals are here for SALT’s everyday breads and laminated pastries. Along with super-crisp croissants and custardy slices of kouign-amann, we can’t get enough of thin, endearingly lumpy baguettes on display in the chic café. Burnished, braided loaves are challah and more Insta-worthy bakes are also in the still-growing rotation, and the bakery is open every day.
Steel & Rye
Milton restaurant Steel & Rye debuted in 2012 with pizza and other cuisine handcrafted in homage to its Lower Mills location, an area built on local farming, milling, and manufacturing. Such reverence for traditional cooking methods owes a lot to heritage grains and bread-baking, and in 2020, the owners doubled down to open an attached bakery-café. Specializing in sourdough made from local flour, Steel & Rye Bakery offers a few styles of fresh loaves every day, including savory flavor combinations like Pickled Pepper & Cheddar and earthy corn Polenta, Garlic, & Rosemary. The pizza dough that put this spot on the map is also available from the bakery. Swing by for breakfast or lunch to try toasts and sandwiches like a Banh Mi on baguette with coffee-roasted pork and black garlic mayo; and the vegetarian Portobello on a sesame bun with whipped goat cheese, roasted peppers, and arugula.
Eric Twardzik contributed reporting.